It's great to be back with my column, especially this time of year, since my family and I usually make a visit to Louisville for Derby weekend. It's also one of the two or three times a year I make a musical appearance in my hometown. (By the way, thanks! to all who came out in November for my CD celebration.)
After all the traveling I've done in the past few months, I want to write about the world of acoustic performers. Although most of them are not household names, there is an endless wealth of talent in America.
At the Common Grounds Coffee House in Charleston, West Virginia, I shared a bill with a young New Yorker, Daniel Cartier, who is known more for his tattooed head than his music, unfortunately. This coffee house is still in the finishing stages of remodeling, and it will be a first-rate listening room when it's completed.
I took in a taping of "Mountain Stage" there, and it was simply wonderful. I also enjoyed the hospitality of Ron Sowell, the music director, and his wife, Sally. The "Mountain Stage" show, which is done for West Virginia Public Radio and is carried on over 200 stations around the U.S., was a super show, with guests that included Peter Rowan, The Nashville Bluegrass Band, Jerry Douglas AND his mentor Mike Caldwell. Talk about burning, flaming dobro playing, folks. The audience was treated to a duet by Jerry and Mike after the official taping was over.
The show also included the incredible Rosalee Sorrells. Sorrells, whose latest release is on Green Linnet Records, did the most personal and moving performance, including a Ken Keasy song. Known as the "Traveling Lady," she shows us younger musicians know what the word "emotional" means.
"Mountain Stage" producer Andy Ritenour and host Larry Gross were as nice as could be and spoke of having me on the show in the not-so-distant future. Sounds good to me.
It was on to the North American Folk and Dance Alliance Conference in Washington, D.C., next and I could not possibly get the report on that in this space. Let's just say it was exhilarating. I met Pete Seeger and had a nice conversation with him. Pete's big question to me was why do so many songwriters gravitate to Nashville these days. He finds the process very unnatural, but I assured him that there are many dedicated writers there who don't just crank out ditties. I told him about the heralding of the songwriter there.
There was an elegant and moving Lifetime Achievement dinner and ceremony in honor of Woody Guthrie and Moses Asch, the gentlemen who founded Folkway Recordings, among their many other accomplishments. As a preface to the Guthrie tribute, the one and only Ramblin' Jack Elliott performed "Pretty Boy Floyd" and brought down the house. I had no idea that Jack Elliott was there, and to hear and see him so suddenly was a great surprise and a special moment for me.
Ramblin' Jack looked and sounded great, even at his age (about which I did not ask.) He and Pete Seeger were very gracious and I was inspired and touched to spend a little time with them.
The conference itself was a series of round the clock showcases, workshops, membership meetings and exhibitors in the two-story exhibit hall. The whole thing took place in the downtown Renaissance Washington, D. C. Hotel.
It was great fun and hard work. I would advise anyone who is serious about their work to join the Alliance and take it in next year, when it will be held in one of my favorite cities in North America, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
I'd like to mention that in addition to my show at the Rudyard Kipling on April 27, I will be doing an in-store appearance at ear X-tacy Records on Bardstown Road the day after, at 3 p.m. Come on down.
Take care and be clever.
Alan Rhody is a Louisville native who has resided in Nashville, Tenn., for the last eighteen years. A hit songwriter and traveling performer, he can be reached at P. O. Box 121231, Nashville, TN, 37212.